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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Boxing Day And Me

This was originally written as a submission for a Christmas-themed anthology before I realised the antho was aimed at children, so I'm working on something more appropriate for that(fingers crossed!) and this post is my contribution to the compulsory holidays blogging that everyone else seems to be doing. There's only one book mentioned, The London Ritz Book Of Breakfasts.

Boxing Day used to be a day out for the girls - Mum, my sister Mary and me. We went each year to the Treble Clef restaurant in Southbank for breakfast, then off to the Boxing Day sales, where I'd invariably buy a towel and some gifts for my gift box. Then there would be the Boxing Day blockbuster movie, after I'd seen Mum off on the tram.

After the Treble Clef closed, I invited Mum and Mary to my home for breakfast. I had a book, The London Ritz Book Of Breakfasts, I was keen to try. From it, I took recipes for Irish soda bread, fancy scrambled eggs and breakfast mocha made with melted chocolate and percolated coffee. I added fresh-squeezed orange juice, summer fruits and smoked salmon.

The next year, my father and my brother-law, Gary, asked to join us. The year after, my nephews arrived,  the elder one, David, with his two daughters in tow and the younger, Mark, with a baby bird fallen from the nest(we called someone to take it). That was before Mark married and became father of two delightful small boys.

I eventually got a larger table, one of those you can stretch, to make room for some of my extended family in the small living-room of my flat - and even that table was too small for everyone; we crammed in.

 It became a tradition. Each Christmas Eve I would shop for the ingredients of my family breakfast: smoked salmon, ground coffee for the percolator, a bag of oranges to squeeze for juice, the ingredients for my Irish soda bread, which I only baked once a year, but did well, fresh summer fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots and various berries. (David's two little girls, Dezzy and Rachel, had never tasted raspberries and loved them). I made sure there were eggs for the scrambled eggs, and cheese for most of us, but not for my brother-in-law, who doesn't enjoy it. I gave up the mocha, as my mother thought it too sweet, so stuck with brewed coffee and tea. I'd do my shopping either at Prahran or Queen Vic market, good places to buy gourmet stuff and likely to be selling fruit cheaply at the end of the market day.

On Boxing Day I would get up early to bake bread, percolate coffee and set the table with goodies. The family would wander in at about 10 am, and enjoy the feast. My sister would comment that my bread was better each year. My brother-in-law was willing to delay his Boxing Day cricket to come along.

It ended when my father passed away. I had a simple, cut-down version of the breakfast for my friends Bart and Siu Ling a day before Dad died, and before I went to visit him in the hospital. Somehow, it just wasn't the same. Each year, we remember him at this time. I've gone back to Christmas Day beach picnics. I prefer not to party on New Year's Eve these days, remembering the storm on that first New Year's Eve after the funeral, though I might go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show if I'm in the mood.

But those years of the Boxing Day breakfast with my family, when I made a London Ritz gourmet meal for them, are a precious memory. I recall them with pleasure as well as sadness.

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